Nothing says Happy Cinco d’Mayo like close knit racing on the Coronado Roads area off San Diego Bay on 5 PAC52’s under glorious sun with the local Mexican fisherman interrupting the vhf signal with some fine mariachi music and a chorus of “aye-ayeaye-ayes”.
The marine layer had returned to the area overnight and breeze began early in the am from the northwest, blessing the course with 12-15 knots by the 1st gun. The PAC52’s would share the course with a number of other fleets today, notably the low raters of Division A and J-120’s.
With a clean slate, Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio would start the day in fine fashion, pinching out BadPak at the start and owning the right side of the course. “We liked what we saw on the right and managed to keep the fleet to leeward” said tactician Mike Menninger. Rio would lead to the top and round still in the lead, on they would not relinquish. “All the boats are sailing really well” indicates Manouch “And our crew is doing a fantastic job, It’s a matter of inches on these legs, one mistake is costly”. Rio would maintain their lead throughout the 1st heat, but it got down to the wire on the final stretch of the 4th leg, 7.8 nm course, as team Interlodge showed impressive downwind speed in breeze, almost stealing the race, just feet from pulling it off and settling for a 2nd. Just aft BadPak and FOX were engaged in their own intensive duel with FOX nearly pulling off their own magic, yet coming up just feet short as well. The 1st race would go RIO, Interlodge, BadPak, Fox and Invisible Hand.
Running into kelp, which has been drifting onto the Far Roads Course in abundance, is also costly. One good grab can rip precious time from your vmg, and all the skippers are acutely aware. Dodging the patches of kelp while maintaining boat speed, and remaining in favorable pockets of wind is keeping the skippers on their toes. And the kelp cutters are getting a great workout. Crews are constantly slicing away the unwanted green time killers, as much as every 3-5 minutes. “We recommend flossing between every race” said Invisible Hand’s Frank Slootman “It’s just good hygene.”
The fog had retreated far offshore by the start of Race 2, which began in 8-12 knots. Rio and Fox took the right side of the course while IH, BP & INT went left, and when the fleet reunited at the weather mark in a tight pack, Invisible Hand would round 1st and pull off an impressive jibeset and head for the left side while the other four boat remained on the right. The Hand would benefit with a sizable lead at the leeward mark, with FOX and INT in a tight duel for second.
The following uphill leg would see the wind begin to lighten and oscillate. The Hand would stretch their lead out considerably, finding the pockets of wind and avoiding the holes. A threesome of INT, RIO and FOX would follow suit with last years season champions, BadPak struggling to keep up. “It’s unusual weather, something we see in September and October” said Bruce Nelson, Navigator on BadPak. “The breeze is usually much more consistent and not so patchy this time of year.” It was almost painful to watch the boat lanquishing in their own patch of stillness while stablemate were in the right place at the right time. Invisible Hand would take race 2 in an uncontested manner followed by Interlodge, then Rio and Fox, BadPak finally getting in the wind, but too late to compensate.
By race 3, the wind had lightened further, and the course shortened and shifted to the left by some 30 degrees. And this race would be dramatic. FOX would box out Invisible Hand at the Start and lead the fleet up the course. In a very tight uphill leg FOX, IH, INT, and BP would take the right side, RIO on a flyer on the left. When they reached the weather mark, FOX stalled and was passed inside by IH before pulling off a jibeset and heading towards the beach. The other heading to the right side. It had appeared FOX was on a mission when they reached the bottom, leading RIO, IH, INT and BP.
A huge shift forced the RC to move course even further left yet FOX maintained their tender lead and headed back to the gates. It was at the bottom of the course where the wheels came off and the spin halyard wrapped on FOX, forcing them to sail toward Tijuana, to clear. While they finally freed the misbehaving line, Invisible Hand made their move and found the pressure to get to the upwind finish ahead of RIO and FOX then INT and BadPak.
The day would end with Invisible Hand taking their 4th Bullet and RIO their 1st. Invisble Hand leads the series 13 Points to Rio’s 15 and Interlodge in 3rd with 16.